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Songwriting Tips

“You Never Stop Growing in Music…”

Patty Larkin, a folk rock singer-songwriter and songwriting professor at Berklee School of Music, discusses some of the elements of songwriting in a recent news article for the Providence Journal by Susan McDonald:

As inspiring as her music may be to her fans, Larkin says writing is something she has to force herself to work at daily.

“If I wait for the urge to hit, there are so many other things I can do, like laundry, walking the dog,” she says with a laugh. “When I started teaching songwriting at Berkelee, I told them they had to show up for the process and exercise that arm. That’s what I have to do. I spend three hours a day. I start with my guitar. Sometimes I sit with it in a café at a set time and I don’t get up until I get something.”

That “something” might be a fragment of a lyric or melody that she can then return to the next day. Life being the way it is, she admits that she cycles through themes in her writing.

Simple, straight-forward, common sense – what songwriters hear all the time… but always a good lesson to bear in mind – you have to write to be a songwriter…

Thank you for the reminder Ms. Larkin and may the Muse be with you (and all of us)…

Poet Asks Songwriters About Writing Process

Award-winning poet, Ariel Gordon, is guest-editing the Arts column for the National Post and had an interesting interview of three diverse songwriters about their writing process (upon Ariel’s confession that their songs assisted in her writing process as a poet).  You can find the short-but-compelling interview here.

The songwriters: Amelia Curran, Craig Cardiff and Nathan Rogers

Just one brief sample:

Q: Do you have a songwriting tic? By which I mean particular language or particular images (or sounds, I suppose…) that always seem to be a part of the first draft of a song? I became preoccupied with writing poems about pears in the weeks that followed picking small yellow pears from a friend’s yard. I also re-used an image from my first collection in my second, because it’s still something that sticks with me…

CC: Most of my writing is me working through my knots, my mistakes, trying to frame them, share them, get them out of my head to make room for all the new knots and mistakes that come out of living and bumping through this world.

AC: I absolutely succumb to this as well and it seems to tie album to album. I produced one album that seemed littered with jewel imagery; there were diamonds and rubies everywhere. And another that eked out themes of construction and architecture. But these happened unbeknownst to me at the time.

NR: I always seem to gravitate back to hidden meanings and non-linear thinking. I ask a lot of my “readers” but I truly believe they can handle a more literary approach to songwriting. I refuse to dumb down any part of a lyric for anyone’s sake.

May the Muse be with you…

Songwriting Strategies

isw.netTom Slatter of Indiesongwriter.net is putting together a series of “songwriting strategy podcasts”.  Episode One was delivered by Tom himself and dealt with key changes, while Episode Two covered Nadia Cripps’ process to compose a new piano instrumental in one of her songs.

Check out the Songwriting Strategies podcasts and may the Muse be with you…

Insider Secrets to Great Songwriting

nprlogo_138x46[1] For over 25 years, Diane Warren has written top ten hits for some of the greatest voices in the recording industry. She reveals her secrets to great songwriting. And Jack Perricone, chair of the songwriting department at the Berklee College of Music, talks about songwriting across musical genres.

You can listen to the NPR Talk of the Nation program from earlier this week right here:

Drake’s Songwriting Tip: Use a BlackBerry

DALLAS - FEBRUARY 12:  Rapper Drake poses duri...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Maybe it’s conducive to his rap style of music, but Toronto-born artist/musician/songwriter/actor, Drake, uses his BlackBerry to write his raps:

In this clip from the upcoming doc, Drake bops to the track Kanye West produced for "Show Me a Good Time" and then picks up a BlackBerry and starts punching out some rhymes.

"All Drake’s raps for eternity have been written inside of a Blackberry," producer and engineer Noah "40" Shebib says in the clip. "I mean, to the point where if he doesn’t have a BlackBerry, we gotta go get somebody who’s got one. I’ve had dummy BlackBerrys around that I just pull out for him to write on, like if he needs one … that don’t actually even work!"

Drake cops to his need for a BlackBerry when working on his lyrics. "I can’t write my raps on paper," Drake says. "The BlackBerry keys — my thumbs were made for touching them." The clip wraps up with Drizzy in the booth recording and referencing his lyrics on his trusty smartphone.

Hey, whatever works for you, I say… May the Muse be with him… I’m sure we’re going to see iPad and Android apps for songwriters at some point… (rhyming dictionaries and tab/chord software… hmmm, maybe I should get on that…)

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Acoustic Guitar: Jakob Dylan

JakobDylan[1] I really enjoyed the article in the latest edition of Acoustic Guitar magazine that featured Jakob Dylan.  He discusses his latest, Women and Country, and waxes poetic on songwriting in general.  Here’s a little snippet, but check out the whole article:

When you’re working on a song, do you feel as if you understand what you’re writing about, or do you even want to understand?
DYLAN No. I think the people who are really good can’t explain how they do it or why, and you should be very suspicious of people who can. Truthfully, when I am asked to explain a song, I always find it an awkward question because I think the song is the explanation. But that’s just the kind of songs I write. If you were able to ask Phil Ochs what his songs were about, he could probably tell you because they are very specific.

Some people aim for a kind of writing where words fall out that on some level make no sense.
DYLAN But what’s unique about that is he or she is the only one who had that idea drop out. You know, a lot of times you let that happen, and you look at the page and you wonder, “I don’t know, is that right or not? Does that make perfect sense?” But if you question it too much and try to use too much logic, it’ll slip away.

Do you ever share songs in progress with your father (Bob Dylan)?
DYLAN No, I never have, and really for no other reason than that I was always confident, especially when I came up in groups—we were chasing our own ideas. I don’t know that somebody like him could truthfully give anybody . . . I think if you’re that good, it’s very difficult to put into a dialogue how [someone else] can also do it. It’s very hard to point somebody in that direction.

I don’t mean necessarily that you’d ask him to explain or teach, but just simply to be an audience.
DYLAN No, I honestly don’t do that with anybody. Also, I really like writing a song and keeping it until the very last moment of playing it for who is going to be playing it with you, because there’s a snapshot that happens one time. There’s an exciting moment when you first record a song; that’s probably the most lasting impression anyone will have of a song, but really it’s just the way you wanted to record it one day, one afternoon, and who knows why.

And now for a treat… a mini-office concert put on by Mr. Dylan and his cohorts in the NPR offices…

 

May the Muse be with you…

Songwriting through celibacy?

From Celebuzz…

Lily Allen is truly willing to suffer for the sake of her art.

She’s taking a vow of celibacy in hopes of improving her songwriting skills.

“It’s good to get out of your comfort zone and test yourself,” Allen says. “I’m just going to see how it goes for a bit. I haven’t set a time limit or anything.”

“I’ve actually broken up with boyfriends for inspiration. When I hit a period of not being able to write music, I get up and I walk away,” Allen fesses up. “It’s pretty mean-but it’s true.”

Sounds like Lily Allen isn’t the only person who’s suffered for her art.

And may the Muse be with her for it…

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